The aim of this paper is to identify and investigate the potential and limitations of diesel–gas combustion concepts for high speed large engines operated in gas mode with very small amounts of pilot fuel (<5% diesel fraction). Experimental tests were carried out on a flexible single cylinder research engine (displacement 6.24 dm3) equipped with a common rail system. Various engine configurations and operating parameters were varied and the effects on the combustion process were analyzed. The results presented in this paper include a comparison of the performance of the investigated dual fuel concept to those of a state-of-the-art monofuel gas engine and a state-of-the-art monofuel diesel engine. Evaluation reveals that certain limiting factors exist that prevent the dual fuel engine from performing as well as the superior gas engine. At the same NOx level of 1.3 g/kWh, the efficiency of the dual fuel engine is ≈3.5% pts. lower than that of the gas engine. This is caused by the weaker ignition performance of the injected pilot fuel compared to that of the gas scavenged prechamber of the gas engine. On the other hand, the dual fuel concept has the potential to compete with the diesel engine. The dual fuel engine can be operated at the efficiency level of the diesel engine yet with significantly lower NOx emissions (3.5 g/kWh and 6.3 g/kWh, respectively). Since the injection of pilot fuel is of major importance for flame initialization, and thus for the main combustion event of the dual fuel engine, optical investigations in a spray box, measurements of injection rates, and three-dimensional (3D) computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation were conducted to obtain even more detailed insight into these processes. A study on the influence of the diesel fraction shows that diminishing the diesel fraction from 3% to lower values has a significant impact on engine performance because of the effects of such a reduction on injection, ignition delay, and initial flame formation. The presented results illustrate which operating strategy is beneficial for engine performance in terms of low NOx emissions and high efficiency. Moreover, potential measures can be derived which allow for further optimization of the diesel–gas combustion process.

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